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The impact of corruption on women, strategies for change (Part 2)

Photo courtesy of Transparency International via YouTube Part 1 of this three-part series looked at some statistics on women’s experience with corruption.

Part 2 explores strategies that can help reduce women’s experience with corruption, from business regulations and local safeguards, to women’s representation in government bodies.


The United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNAC) has 144 state signatories, and was the first legally binding anti-corruption instrument when it was adopted in 2003. It does not address the relationship between gender and corruption.

Two that do are the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Beijing Platform for Action, the document to arise from the 1995 United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women.

Both are mandates for gender-sensitive governance, which is defined as “governance that ensures public resources are spent effectively and efficiently on public services that build human capital in a gender-equal way, reduce corruption and prevent other abuses of women’s human rights.”

The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) has outlined some strategies to help national and regional governments reach this gender-sensitive, good-governance goal. They include:

  • The political process. Women as voters and candidates need to effectively engage in political decision-making and the electoral process at the national and local levels. Going beyond their ability to vote and be heard in town meetings, the goal is to give women the ability to advocate for issues that affect them and their families. 

While individual women may not be less corrupt than individual men, UNIFEM’s studies show that when there is a critical mass of women in decision-making positions (30% or more), policy and budget decisions often change in ways that benefit not only women and girls, but communities as a whole.

  • Access to information and the media. When women know about the public services available to them, their rights under law, and the avenues of redress available to them, they can better take care of themselves and their families. 

Access to information means communication from the national to the community level — and it means greater transparency in governance. Access to the media can be critical to women as they seek to join forces with others, agitate for change and shame a poorly performing government.

  • Gender-responsive budgeting. Public-sector corruption typically leads to one thing — funds and supplies are diverted away from their intended beneficiaries. All citizens need to have a greater say in public-sector budgeting and the ability to monitor how money is being allocated. Women have a particular need for such public oversight of government funds when they have too-few seats at the tables of power.  
  • Public accountability and incentives. Those in public office are more likely to create policies that do not have a disparate, negative impact on women if they are held accountable. Going beyond having to answer to the public on this matter, rewarding nations for such gender-conscious lawmaking (and judicial decision-making) could help ensure gender-responsive reforms are created.
  • Groups, like civic and nongovernmental organizations. Such public service groups can expose corruption through their access to print and radio media channels and via audits of how governments respond to the needs of women. They can help put women in touch with each other and others who can lend a hand.

Part 3 will show some of these strategies applied to real-life scenarios in developing countries, and how they have made a difference in women’s lives and communities.


Julie DiMauro is the executive editor of FCPA Blog and can be reached here.

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